The study concerned higher rates of anti-malaria mutations that, when present in two copies, leads to sickle cell disease. Ghanaian men were more likely to have the mutation than European men. The researchers thought this was not due to chance.
New research challenges the overarching assumption that genetic mutations occur randomly and are then either kept or discarded by natural selection. In the study, published January 14 in Genome Research, scientists found that the rate of a specific mutation with important health implications is nonrandom, occurring more or less often in different populations that have experienced specific environmental pressures over the course of generations…
Because the study focused on sperm samples, which are equivalent to a single generation, natural selection and genetic drift had no influence on the prevalence of mutations, Livnat tells The Scientist. And given the medical importance of the mutation exhibiting increased occurrence in the African cohort, Livnat says the results “raise a fundamental challenge to the notion of random mutation.”Dan Robitzski, “Study: Sickle Cell Mutation Driven by Pressure, Not Random Chance” at The Scientist (March 17, 2022)
Robitzski goes onto report that this finding is not popular with researcher Adi Livnat’s colleagues.
But Livnat is standing his ground:
“I do not think it is a coincidence that the HbS mutation, which provides protection against malaria, originates de novo more frequently in sub-Saharan Africans than in Europeans,” Livnat says. “I also do not think it is a coincidence that it originates more frequently in the gene where it provides this protection compared to the nearly identical nearby delta globin gene, where precisely the same mutation could happen but would not provide protection.”Dan Robitzski, “Study: Sickle Cell Mutation Driven by Pressure, Not Random Chance” at The Scientist (March 17, 2022)
The paper is open access.
ID proponent Michael Behe, of course, discusses the malaria–sickle cell situation at some length in Edge of Evolution. We hope that’s not enough to shut down the discussion or endanger Livnat’s career.